Someone I went to school with asked me, ‘so what’s with all this vegan and raw and vegetarian stuff?’ do you want to live for a 100 years?’
I quickly swallowed the last sip of a smoothie that I was drinking at the time and changed the topic. But, I think it is time to talk about food. It is very simple if we get out of the head, and into the heart. More and more of us cannot deny that our choices have an impact on other living beings. When we eat meat, use cows for milk, hens for eggs, we create unnecessary suffering. Sooner or later this suffering comes back to us in the form of allergies, sensitivities etc. It may not happen in one generation or even two, but at some point the suffering of factory farming creates an equal response in our bodies. That we should not care about the impact of our choices, is a sign of apathy and malaise.
Every time we grow our food by unnecessarily killing other species of living beings, it affects our own safety and security. Our lives are inextricably linked and connected to other lives on the planet. What is toxic for other species is toxic for us.
And then the next question, how can we live as if we are alive?
To start with: Living as if we are biological beings, rather than robots would be helpful. Biological beings can’t be fitted like machine parts in cubicles and expected to remain healthy and strong. Biological beings need a natural habitat to survive. We human animals must have fresh air, plants, animals and movement in nature for optimum health. Living like trapped robots in boxes is not healthy.
Next, as biological animals, we need community and friendship. Urban spaces where everything is organized with a task orientation, in a rigid structure makes us feel disconnected from each other. Circular design, where people can make eye contact and converse easily would be ideal for our social needs.
The third aspect of our basic human nature is the way we learn. The conscious brain can only hold 5-6 pieces of information–anybody who uses a task list will agree, that they can’t remember beyond a few things at a time. Instead real human learning happens in the subconscious mind i.e., when the conscious mind relaxes. People who are naturally great with memory and rote learning, may actually struggle with contemplation. Even though academically they may do well, they often find it hard to apply or synthesize what they learn. Perhaps this is why there is so much redundant work in corporations, because there is no concept of reflection!. We actually need time to digest, reflect and let ideas sink in, before we can do any creative synthesis. Much of our current education and work is geared towards fulfilling a linear set of rules of thinking. As long as we can regurgitate what we read in a book, we are considered smart. This is why there is much ignorance and resistance towards applying basic concepts of human rights, despite so much study and education both in spiritual and academic concepts.
Making connection a priority, rather than a possibility, would mean empowering community–instead of all us buying from China, we’d exchange our time and goods with each other. We’d create villages, instead of disconnected boxes. Since the purpose of our existence would be to share what we know and have, it wouldn’t be about competition anymore, but learning, co-operation and facilitating growth.
If our priorities included living as if life mattered, that there is a purpose to it, we would move in the direction of safeguarding our food source (animals, plants, land), instead of exploiting it.
The change or shift is already happening. It is time for communities to grow our own food, time to reconnect with food. Time to stop eating as if our purpose is to exploit all the food and resources we see. Instead it is time to eat to nourish our bodies as a human collective, to fulfill our life purpose and add value to the experience of other living beings around us. To eat ourselves, without feeding the hungry, to have so much and not share with those who don’t is a great cruelty that is very hard to bear for someone who is conscious.
The most kind way to live is to minimize our consumption of food. To treat it as sacred. To make food about communities coming together to enjoy the abundance of it, rather than a way to show off what one person has.
When we eat as if the food in front of us is a sacred gift, and that it is alive, we acknowledge the kindness of our source of life. We also are kind to those animals and plants that give their life force to us, so that we may live. It is an act of great kindness to have been given life. With this life, we must do good to other living beings. We feel gratitude for the person who cooked our meal. We give gratitude for the scraps that we compost, because it goes to feed the plants, thus completing the cycle.
When we live consciously, in awareness of the great gift of life, we find that our health, both mentally, and emotionally thrives. Instead of food being something to fill the emptiness of the unfulfilled soul, or a chore, food becomes a way to connect with the soul of the planet.
Reverence and acknowledgement of the essence of life, is our true nature. It brings us into harmony with our higher truth.
Is it really about living to be a 100?
No. It is about living as if life mattered. It is about gratitude. The other option is a malaise, a spiritual illness.
(c) Saima Shah